FAA’s NextGen Under Heavy Crossfire

 - May 4, 2010, 7:37 AM

Separate testimonies late last month before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the DOT Inspector General raised serious issues concerning the FAA’s management of its NextGen project. The GAO pointed to an apparent breakdown in what was to be close coordination and levels of funding among the FAA, NASA and the Departments of Commerce, Defense and Homeland Security to ensure the success of NextGen. For Fiscal Year 2011, only the FAA, NASA and Commerce had budgeted funds. DOD and DHS pleaded other commitments. Compounding the issue have been changes in the reporting structure and responsibilities within the FAA and the Joint Program and Development Office–ostensibly the focus of NextGen efforts. The DOT IG pointed out the lack of FAA oversight on critical, high-value projects such as the $2.1 billion en route automation modernization program, where $14 million per month was being spent in resolving problems after its operational introduction. Similar issues have arisen with the newly introduced $3.5 billion FAA telecommunications infrastructure, where the FAA was unaware of a contractor action that delayed more than 800 flights nationwide. The agency also appeared unwilling, the IG noted, to use the DOD’s vast experience in net-centric operations because, an FAA official stated, the agency’s culture was “reluctant to embrace technologies not developed by the FAA.”